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Minister Foley launches innovative research project to support small schools in rural Ireland

Jul 13, 2021

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has launched a two-year action research project aimed at supporting small rural schools.

The innovative project aims to encourage small schools to cluster together in local groups, enabling them to collaborate and identify common challenges and trial innovative solutions.

This project is being developed by a working group of school management bodies and teachers’ unions with the Department for Education, as part of the programme of work of the Primary Education Forum (PEF). The PEF comprises all primary education partners, including parent representatives, working collaboratively with the Department of Education.

Six project clusters of small schools will be formed, two in Galway, and one in each of Donegal, Kerry, Wicklow and Waterford, consisting of between three and five schools per cluster. The clusters will be supported by part-time local coordinators sponsored by the education partners, working with a national coordinator under the guidance of a steering group. As an integral part of the project an evaluation will take place and a final report, including analysis of scalability of actions undertaken, will be compiled.

Minister Foley said: “All across the country, tremendous energy and local support is provided to our small schools. They are valued hugely in our communities, and play an important role in community life. This research project will harness some of that energy and will support schools to collaborate in clusters and identify possible solutions to some of the challenges they face.

“Small schools’ leaders and school communities have themselves identified that there is huge potential for collaboration in finding workable solutions. Small schools themselves are best placed to know what might and might not work for them. It is not expected that all of the activities tried out will be immediately successful; the aim is to provide an opportunity over a two year period to experiment safely.

“The Programme for Government commits to continuing to recognise the importance of small schools to communities across Ireland and this innovation provides tangible support to that commitment.

“I have no doubt that the schools participating across the six clusters in this project will provide valuable insights and ideas into supports that can be developed and replicated across small schools.”

Read the press release in full on www.education.ie